PittsburghMom

PittsburghMom is our original, featured blog by Heather Starr Fiedler.  Heather created PittsburghMom in March 2008 and began this journey.  Heather is the mom to two young boys, Matthew (9) and Benjamin (7), a college professor and General Manager of PittsburghMom. She's busy, but not too busy to blog about her sometimes serious, sometimes painful and often humorous thoughts on life and share her favorite Pittsburgh spots for families.

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Underscheduled summer

Written by Heather Starr Fiedler. Posted in PittsburghMom

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I know too often as parents in this day and age we tend to find ourselves overscheduled. With both my husband and I working and two kids in elementary school, we definitely have a lot on our plate. But I'm finding myself hesitant to schedule too much going into the summer months. In fact I almost think we are underscheduled, if there is such a thing.

But every time I start to sign up for summer camps, classes or the like, my finger just doesn't want to hit that "submit" button.

 

My older son is turning 10 this summer and it is a constant reminder that we only have a few years left when he still is going to just want to hang around his family and not go off with friends all day. Soon enough he'll be off to college.

I have not scheduled any organized activities for the summer, perhaps because I'm trying to hold on to these moments with the kids before they slip away. With the exception of a couple of days at Cub Scout camp with a parent, I have not signed my kids up for any sports leagues , summer camps, etc. I bought season passes to Kennywood and Sandcastle and a bunch of Groupons for fun places, and I just want to spend the summer soaking in my kids as much as I can.

I want to wake up each day and play it by ear. I want to go to the pool and to the park and to the beach and take long bike rides and go kayaking. I want to have the freedom to do those things anytime the weather is nice, anytime the mood strikes. I also want to spend lazy rainy days watching old movies and building Legos. I want to clean up our playroom and garage.  I want to have spur of the moment road trips to grandma's house or the lake.

I just want to be.  I dunno, maybe I want it to be 1975. :)

I think I'm longing for simpler times and I realize it's not that hard to make it happen- just don't sign them up for a lot of stuff.

Of course, after a few weeks I may change my mind if we get bore, but right now we are just going to let the summer unfold as it is and "play it by ear".

 

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Pittsburgh Family Fun - Fun Fest

Written by Heather Starr Fiedler. Posted in PittsburghMom

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In my "Pittsburgh Family Fun" series I often like to highlight/review new play spaces in the Burgh. But by doing that, I often neglect some of the tried and true places that have entertained us for decades. So in my next few installments of Pittsburgh Family Fun, I'll write about some of those good old standbys.  This week I'd like to focus on Fun Fest Entertainment Center in Harmar.

We live just a few miles away from Fun Fest, so it's a place we visit often, both in the winter when it's cold and dreary, and in the summer when we want a break from the heat.  My kids love all three staples of Fun Fest; Bowling, Laser Tag and Arcade Games.

Fun Fest is unique in that it has all three under one roof, so when the kids can't agree on exactly what to do, everyone can agree to Fun Fest. The regular hours of operation are 
Sunday-Wednesday -  9 am - 11 pm
Thursday - 9am - 12 am
Friday & Saturday - 9 am - 2 am

 

Bowling

Fun Fest boasts 40 lanes of bowling, with open bowling available all day, every day, which is a great bonus.  The bowling alley has updated scoring systems and large screen tvs playing music videos. Then at night, the lights go down and "Cosmic Bowling" begins. It's funny that my kids used to be scared of cosmic bowling but now they think it's awesome.  For the younger kids, they offer automatic bumpers, lightweight balls and ramps.

Cosmic Bowling hours are as follows:
Monday 4-11 pm
Thursday  9 pm - 12 am
Friday 4 pm - 2 am
Saturday  11 am - 2 am
Sunday 12 pm -11 pm

Costs for bowling include:
Monday-Thursday - $3 per game
Friday-Sunday - $5 per game
Kids under 12 - $2.50 per game
Shoe Rental - $2.50

 

Laser Tag

Fun Fest just updated their Laser Tag area about a year ago, and now boast the new "Cyber Quest Laser Tag" experience, which is 3,000 sq ft laser tag arena with black lighting, fog and sound effects.  Each unit comes preprogrammed with a fun name and after the round is over, players can see how they scored (which leads to both elation and tears, but such is life) :)

Hours for Laser Tag are as follows:
Sunday - Wednesday  9am - 11 pm
Thursday  9 am - 12 am
Friday & Saturday  9 am - 1 am

Pricing for Laser Tag is:
$7 for one game
$10 for two games by the same person

 

Game Zone


The Game Zone is home to over 50 games of skill and luck.  Some of the more popular games include Ski ball, Connect Four and Air Hockey. They have a ticket redemption counter with pretty good prizes I have to say.  My kids have walked away with everything from candy to their own bowling pin.

 

Birthday Parties

We had my son's 6th birthday party at Fun Fest and it was a great event. We had a special party host assigned to us that took care of all of our needs. It was the easiest birthday party ever. The party packages include either bowling or laser tag or both depending on which package you choose.  Packages range from $12.50/guest to $22/guest.  All packages include pizza, soft drinks, game tokens and a private party room for 2 hours.

See the different party packages here

 

Coming Soon - Suite 28

If you've driven by Fun Fest lately, you may have noticed some construction going on.  In May, Fun Fest will open their new VIP area, called "Suite 28".  The new digs include a private room (or can be split into two rooms for smaller parties) with access to 8 private bowling lanes. The Suite will include comfy couches and updated scoring. Tina, the Events Coordinator said "it'll be perfect for corporate events, private parties, Sweet 16 gatherings, etc."  

After Suite 28 opens, they plan to move to the next phase of construction which will include an updated game room and outdoor venue (we're really looking forward to this!)

 

Coupons/Specials

Fun Fest is one of those place, like Chuck E. Cheese, that I hardly ever go without a coupon. They offer daily specials on their website, and coupons both on the site (printable) and a text program with additional specials.

Their daily specials range from a $10 Ultimate Fun Deal that includes 1 hour of bowling (with shoes), 1 game of Laser Tag and 10 tokens (Noon-6 pm Monday-Thursday) to a "Pins Pizza and Pop" special all day Monday-Thursday that includes 2 hours of bowling with shoes, large pizza and a pitcher of pop for $39.95 for 6 people.

You can find their daily specials here

In addition to the daily specials on the website, you can opt in to their "VIP Program" by texting FUNFEST to 91944. This will give you occasional text messages with additional specials. The last special I got was for a Mardis Gras Special $10/person 2-hour bowling package.  

They also have a section of the website that is a little hard to find without google, but exists nonetheless, with printable coupons for BOGO Laser Tag and Bowling. I always print one out before heading there.


Special Events

Fun Fest also offers occasional special events such as character visits (Sponge Bob last month, Cinderella this month) and seasonal parties (Mardis Gras, New Year's Eve).  Check their special events tab (or sign up for text alerts) to get in the know about what's coming next.

 

 

 

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Pittsburgh Family Fun - Pittsburgh Mills Sky Trail

Written by Heather Starr Fiedler. Posted in PittsburghMom

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Today was the opening day for the new Pittsburgh Mills Sky Trail ropes course in the Pittsburgh Mills mall.  We live just a few miles from the mall, so we decided to celebrate the end of our week and try it out. 

The Sky Trail adventure is a two-level ropes course zipline that towers 32 feet above the food court (close your eyes and pretend it's the forest).  The zipline is almost 70 feet in length and seemed to be the hit of the night.  

The line when we arrived was a bit long, but it moved quickly. We went through in stages. First to pay, then to get our harnesses on and then to attach to the course.  It's a two-part attachment that cannot be removed by anyone but the staff member, which was comforting.  

The Sky Trail is for those 48" tall or more, but there is an option for smaller kids.  Kids under 48" can do the Sky Tykes course, which is just a few feet off the ground, for half the price

I did the course along with the kids and we all had a great time.  My critical mistake at the beginning was going straight to the higher level. Not only is it much further from the ground, but the obstacles are harder, often with nothing to hold on to except your own harness.  I chickened out on most of the them and found myself sweaty, shaking and hugging the pole an awful lot.  Once I went down to the lower level and breezed through the "easier" obstacles, I realized that I could indeed cross an obstacle with nothing to hold on to.  So at the end of our time I headed back up and conquered my fears.  There were still a few ropes that I just didn't have the guts to do (single rope tight-wire style with nothing to hold on to), but I did most of them much easier that time. So my advice is to start with the lower level and then work your way up. My other piece of advice is to wear good sturdy shoes. I had loafers on and they weren't ideal. Some sneakers would have been much better.

This was my face pretty much the entire time on the higher level

 

 

The zip line was a huge hit with the kids.  My boys each did it three times. I must admit it was a lot of fun.

The staff was all extremely friendly and helpful and I felt very safe and secure the entire time.  

It's a great way to kill some time indoors when the weather isn't great. And at $14 it isn't too pricey.  We were asked to come down after about 30 minutes, but nobody seemed to be really enforcing that rule, and we were actually up there closer to 45 minutes because we lost track of time. I'm not sure if that's an all-day rule or if it was just because they were closing.

  • The Pittsburgh Mills Sky Trail is open 10 am - 9 pm Monday thru Saturday and 11 am-6 pm on Sunday.
  • The course costs $14 per persona and the Sky Tykes ropes course specifically for kids under 48" tall is $7
  • They offer a 10% off discount for groups of 10 or more
  • It's located inside the Pittsburgh Mills Mall (park by the Cinemark movie theater).  590 Pittsburgh Mills Boulevard, Tarentum, PA  15084
  • Phone 878-302-2377

 

 Additional Photos

 

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Hotel happiness

Written by Heather Starr Fiedler. Posted in PittsburghMom

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We took a little spring break trip to Cleveland last week with the kids. We all love a good mini vacation.  I've come to realize there's something about going on a little trip and staying overnight that is exciting to all of us...for different reasons.

The kids love the activities that we inevitably end up doing in whatever spot we're in.  They also are suckers for a hotel pool. They could spend hours just splashing and doing jumping in over and over again.

My husband is in it for the food. He is a foodie. Not a fancy foodie, but a "local good eats" foodie.  He'll spend hours surfing the web looking for the best local joints.  

We spend all day focusing on the kids and dinner out focusing on the husband. 

I realized on our last trip that my favorite part about traveling is sleeping in a hotel.  I know many people would prefer to sleep in their own bed and don't like hotels, but I have always loved them. Growing up we only stayed in hotels on our annual vacation, so hotels always remind me of happy times with no school and my parents relaxed and enjoying a break from work.

In addition to the feeling of "being on vacation", I enjoy being in the same room with all of my family. Sure, it can get crowded, but there's just something I love about being so close.  It's such good close together time that we won't have forever, so I'm cherishing it now.  Laying down to bed and waking up in the middle of the night and being able to look around and see everyone I love so much in the same room is something really special to me.  I can hear each of my kids' breathing as they sleep without having to get out of bed and walk down the hall.  

I feel like these moments with my kids are fleeting. We realized recently that we've now had Matthew in our house/lives for more than half the time he'll be here (the 9-year-old half way point).  That is so hard to think about. While I love the young men my children are growing in to I still don't want them to grow up.  These times together as a family are something I want to hold on to for dear life.

 

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This should help the mommy guilt

Written by Heather Starr Fiedler. Posted in PittsburghMom

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I read with great interest the headline in the Washington Post this week that stated "Making time for kids? Study shows quality trumps quantity"

In a ground-breaking study, to be published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, titled "Does the amount of time mothers spend with kids or adolescents matter?", researchers argue that the amount of time parents spend with their kids has little to no impact on how children turn out.  After surveying nearly 6,000 families with children between the ages of 0 and 13 and looking at behavioral, academic and emotional problems, the findings suggested that there were "no statistically significant association between maternal time and any child outcome".  

Of course as a mom I am fascinated by this study and its findings.  As a working mom, I'm also a bit relieved. Of course, I'll spend as much time with my kids as I can, but I do admit, I feel a little more ok choosing to have a career knowing that it quite likely is not damaging my kids.  This mommy guilt, at least, can rest a little easy.

 

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